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Playoff game suspended due to inclement weather with No. 2 West Islip ahead 4-1

Third baseman Matty Maurer hurls the ball to first base. Photo by Desirée Keegan

A stroke of lightning might be what Ward Melville’s baseball team needed to turn things around.

First baseman Ryan Hynes reaches for a high throw in time to get the out. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With rain, thunder and lightning delaying the No. 7 Patriots’ second-round playoff game against host No. 2 West Islip May 15, it also ends the Lions’ one-run-per-inning scoring streak, with the two teams resuming
play May 16 at 4 p.m., barring no additional weather setbacks. West Islip held a 4-1 lead when play was suspended.

“We played uncharacteristically poorly on defense,” Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci said. “And it cost us.”

Ward Melville started the bottom of the inning off strong, with junior Max Nielsen smacking an RBI-single to shallow right center field on a 3-2 count to score senior Brady Doran from second.

“I knew either it was going to be a ball by a long shot or he was going to give me an easy pitch to just flick into the outfield, and he gave me just that,” Nielsen said discussing his discipline at the plate. “My approach was to simply put the ball in a hole somewhere. When I saw Brady [Doran] score I knew that it was going to be a good game.”

Petrucci said he expects that from one of his star starting pitchers and designated hitter.

“He’s been doing that all year,” the coach said. “Max had a big hit right there, and we need more of that from other guys, too. Baseball’s not a one-man show. Max did his job, but we have to come back the next inning and shut them down, and we didn’t do it.”

Max Nielsen races to first base. Photo by Desirée Keegan

West Islip answered with a ground-rule double, a bunt and a sacrifice fly to tie the score, 1-1. A grounder to third ended the inning, but Ward Melville came up empty over the next three innings while West Islip scored once in each. The Patriots also couldn’t cash in despite loading the bases in the top of the third with two outs.

“We came up empty a few times with runners in scoring position, but it’s hard adjusting and sitting back against a pitcher who is throwing low-to-mid 70s,” Nielsen said. “On the defensive side of things, we had a few hops and plays that didn’t go our way, so that’s baseball for ya. We knew that West Islip was going to be a tough team to beat, but we know that we can beat them. We wanted to get ahead early and really get into their bullpen.”

Ward Melville will dive into its bullpen, with the pitch count rules leaving both starters ineligible to return to the mound for the remainder of the suspended game. Matt DiGennaro will come out of the bullpen to replace Ethan Farino for the Patriots.

“I don’t know who they’re going to use, but I can’t worry about them, I have to worry about Ward Melville,” Petrucci said. “We’ve had the right hitters up, but we couldn’t get the big hits. Hopefully with a day change we’ll get these opportunities again and try to put some good swings on the ball. We have to see if we can fight back.”

Second baseman Logan Doran tosses the ball to first base.

Nielsen said the team has been in tough hitting situations before, and Petrucci added players have struggled all year with two-out production, and that was the case through most of the day. The head coach said he told his boys following the postponement that the plays West Islip made gave them a 4-1 lead, and the plays the Patriots didn’t make helped Ward Melville to a 4-1 deficit.

“Offensively we’ve struggled all year with two-out hitting — now it’s a playoff game and we’re doing it again,” Petrucci said. “Hopefully we can make up for it over the next three innings. The season’s not over — we’ve had a great one, the kids have played hard all year, we just have to continue to play hard for the next nine outs and see where the chips fall.”

Results from the second part of the suspended game were not available at press time May 16.

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Wolverines face top-seeded Smithtown East in the out bracket on the road May 15 at 4 p.m.

By Bill Landon

Although the double-elimination game didn’t go as planned, Bobby Vath got by with a little help from his friends.

The first-inning showing was all visiting Connetquot needed to get past Newfield, 3-0, in the first round of baseball playoffs May 14. With a runner in scoring position a Vath pitch was drilled deep to left field for a ground-rule double and a 1-0 lead. Three pitches later, a passed ball at the plate put Connetquot ahead 2-0.

“I went back into the dugout after the top of the first, and they were right there ready to pick me up,” the senior said of his teammates. “So I was ready to go back out there in the second and fight for my team.”

Newfield was unable to answer in bottom of the inning, and unfortunately for Vath, an RBI-single gave the Thunderbirds an insurance run in the top of the second.

Newfield was able to get the bat on the ball after that, but when the Wolverines did get on base, Connetquot’s defense answered the call to keep them there.

Vath found his rhythm in the third, and despite Connetquot putting two runners on base in the top of the sixth, the senior didn’t give up a run the rest of the way. He struck out the next two batters in that inning to get out of the jam.

“He settled down after that first inning and started throwing outs, working off his fastball and had good command of the game,” Newfield head coach Eric Joyner said. “That’s just vintage Vath — he’s a great competitor.”

Newfield faces an unexpected opponent Tuesday, May 15, after top-seeded Smithtown East was upset by No. 17 Bay Shore, 7-4.

“Our approach has to be the same — come out of the gate hot, protect the baseball and throw strikes,” Joyner said. “We’ll have to execute a little better offensively tomorrow than we did today.”

Despite Newfield being the No. 8 seed, Vath said to him and his Wolverines, it doesn’t matter what seed they are, or what number they’re facing.

“We’ll definitely get the scouting reports from the other coaches who’ve played [Smithtown East], because that helped us in this game too, but their number doesn’t scare us,” Vath said. “We’ll go in there with the mentality that if the 17thseed beat the No. 1 seed, anybody can beat anyone on any given day.”

Shoreham-Wading River, Miller Place three-sport athletes excel at Blue Chip Prospects Long Island combine

“By no means is Long Island considered a hot bed for football players, but we have a ton of talent here,” horeham-Wading River defensive back and quarterback Xavier Arline said, hoping to show off his skills on the
gridiron at the Blue Chip Prospects Long Island football combine May 6.

The event at Sachem High School North, put on in conjunction with the Suffolk County Coaches Association to showcase top Long Island football talent, ran the 70 athletes that attended through six stations before breaking off into specific position drills. The football players participated in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, standing broad jump, 185-pound bench press, 5-10-5-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill.

Shoreham-Wading River quarterback Xavier Arline leaps over a defender. File photo by Bill Landon

Arline ran the second fastest 40-yard dash (4.55) and 5-10-5-yard time (4.41), behind Brandon Didier of North Babylon, who ran a 4.51 and had a 4.39.

“Knowing I have a good foundation to build off of is confidence boosting,” the sophomore said. “It just shows that with additional training and hard work I can compete with athletes across the country.”

Miller Place junior Tom Nealis, a 6-foot 4-inch wide receiver, ran a 4.91 40-yard dash and had a time of 4.67 in the 5-10-5.

“It was great to be out on the football field again and it was cool to see a lot of other top players and great
athletes there,” said Nealis, who also plays baseball and basketball. “I feel that playing baseball may have put me at a slight disadvantage. Baseball takes up a lot of time that could have been used to practice these drills and work on quickness.”

But he said that won’t hold him back from his dream of being a Long Island standout like Sachem North’s Dalton Crossan, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February, and William Floyd alum Stacey Bedell, who just received an invite to the rookie minicamp of the San Francisco 49ers.

“The way the game is played is like nothing else,” Nealis said. “No other sport can you physically feel
the effort and intensity of your opponent. Seeing these guys make it to elite programs opens my eyes to the possibilities.”

Miller Place’s Tom Nealis grabs a catch. File photo by Bill Landon

Arline said the success of more recent graduates who have gone on to play Division I football, like Sayville’s Jack Coan (University of Wisconsin) and his former teammate Ethan Wiederkehr (Northwestern University) helps ignite a fire in him. Despite verbally committing to the University of North Carolina to play lacrosse as an eighth-grader, the sophomore is keeping his options open.

“This was a great opportunity for me to see where I am at as a player and athlete,” he said. “I wanted to attend this event to gain experience, find my highs and lows and compete against myself. It created a baseline and foundation for me to build on as I begin the football recruiting process.”

Hans Wiederkehr, Ethan’s father who is the president of the football coaches association, and a two-time Long Island championship winner while he was the head coach at Babylon, said since football doesn’t have travel teams, an event like this helps get student-athletes exposure.

“I’ve always thought it was a great tool for all the kids,” he said of the combine, that’s in its 16th year. “The best part for me is every kid really wants to be there and every kid wants to do great. They all have hopes and dreams, and some leave with a reality check while others get to see how good they really are.”

Arline said he thinks he has what it takes to shine at the next level in his favorite sport.

“The most difficult part about the combine was not knowing what to expect — I had very little to no preparation going in,” he said. “With hard work, perseverance and a little luck I believe I can get there.”

It’s only May and, despite the warm weather, it feels a bit like October around here, at least, if you talk to fans of the Yankees and Red Sox.

The two best teams in baseball, as of earlier this week, were preparing to go head-to-head in a three-game
series that seemed to have more on the line than a typical series between the heated rivals at this point
in spring.

The Red Sox had that incredibly hot start, winning 17 of their first 19 games, tearing up the league and anyone who dared to try to compete with them. The Yankees, meanwhile, started slowly, sputtering to a .500 record.

And then the Yankees seemed to have gotten as hot as the weather, scoring runs in the clutch, pitching with confidence and bringing in rookies like Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, who play more like seasoned veterans.

On a recent evening, my wife and I made a quick stop to the grocery store. As we were walking out, a friend saw me in my Yankees sweatshirt. The friend asked if the team pulled out a win, even though they were losing 4-0 in the eighth inning.

As my wife waited patiently, I recounted nearly every at bat that led to another improbable Yankees comeback. A man who worked at the supermarket came over to listen, put up his hand to high-five me and said he had a feeling they might come back.

While the team measures the success of the season by the ability to win the World Series, the fans, particularly during a season with so much early promise, can bask in the excitement of individual games or series.

The first season, as the incredibly long 162 games from March through October is called, can include
numerous highlights that allow fans to appreciate the journey, as well as the destination.

Nothing is a given in a game or a season. We attend or watch any game knowing that the walk-off home run the rookie hit could just as easily have been an inning ending double play.

Ultimately, the most important part of the season is the recognition that it is a game. You can see that when the players mob each other at the plate or smile through their interviews with the sideline reporters after a tight contest.

Year after year, all these teams with all their fans hope the season ends with a victory parade. They want to be able to say, “I was there.”

Ultimately, in life, that’s what we’re hoping for. Moments to cheer for friends and family, to celebrate victories and to enjoy these contests.

Indeed, the winners often look back on the moments when nothing came easily, when their team, their family or their opportunity seemed to be so elusive. These are occasions when nothing that seems to go right turns into those where everything goes according to plan. They don’t happen because you’ve got the right fortune cookie, put on the right socks or asked for some deity to help your team beat another team full of equally worthy opponents, whose fans utter the same prayers.

They happen because of the hard work and dedication. They also often happen because people are taking great pride in doing their jobs and being a part of a team.

Right now, it feels like these two blood rivals are well-matched, facing off in a May series that can bring the energy of October. And, hey, if you’re looking to connect with someone, put on a Yankees or Red Sox sweatshirt and head to the supermarket.

Smithtown residents can watch the Brooklyn Atlantics play for free through October

By Sara-Megan Walsh

“No gloves, no steroids” is the motto of the Atlantic Base Ball Club, which has a classic approach to playing America’s favorite pastime.

Smithtown’s vintage baseball club team hosted a two-day festival at the Smithtown Historical Society’s Atlantic Park off East Main Street May 5 and 6. The Atlantic Base Ball Club is a recreation of the 19th century Brooklyn Atlantics, wearing period-appropriate jerseys while remaining committed to playing the game by 1864 rules. The original team was organized Aug. 14, 1855, and played home games on the Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn.

Spectators quickly noticed the hand-made baseballs are larger and made of rubber, and the wooden bats come in different lengths according to a player’s preference. Under the vintage rules, the catcher and field players don’t wear mitts, but a batter will be called out if a fly ball is caught on the first bounce. Runners must be careful not to overrun first base, or they can be called out. Those interested can find a full explanation of the rules changes on the team’s website at www.brooklynatlantics.org/rules.php. 

The Atlantic team is 7-2 at the start of its 2018 season with games running through October. Admission is free. The schedule of upcoming home games is:

May 20 @ 11 a.m.      Versus Talbot Fairplays
June 9 @  11 a.m.      Double header versus Old Dutch Day, Providence Grays
June 30 @ 11 am.      Double header versus New Brunswick Liberty
July 14 @ 11 a.m.      Versus Red Onion BBC
Sept. 15 [day-long]    Smithtown Heritage Fair event
Oct. 27 @ 11 a.m.     Annual ABBC Scrimmage

For those interested in attending, all games are held at Smithtown Historical Society’s Atlantic Park on Franklin Arthur Farm at 239 East Main Street in Smithtown.

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Marc Barbiglia rips the ball to right center field. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Marc Barbiglia is used to giving Smithtown East fans something to cheer about.

On Tuesday, the senior’s bat was the difference maker. Barbiglia belted a two-run single to right center with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning to help the Bulls to a 7-5 road win over Walt Whitman. 

Winning pitcher Tyler Loft walks off the field after striking out three. Photo by Bill Landon

Tyler Loft, who earned the win, took over on the mound in the bottom of the sixth, allowing no runs on no hits, striking out three and walking none.

“Whitman’s a very good team — they’ve got very good pitching, they played well, they battled, but we just came out on top,” said Barbiglia, who leads his team in RBIs (14) and is batting a .415 on 41 at bats. “We just wanted to play strong defense, stay behind the pitcher — we know he’s got great stuff — we stayed positive out there, kept the ball in front for easy plays.”

Loft said his team was in similar situations through two close wins over Half Hollow Hills East (7-6 and 8-7) back in April. He said he knew his game was all mental.

“I stayed confident, believed in my pitches,” Loft said. “I felt great out there today. I was hitting my spots [with] whatever the catcher was setting up — it was one of those days.”

Smithtown East let a three-run lead slip away when Walt Whitman scored in the bottom of the fourth, and the Bulls came out scoreless in the top of the fifth still leading 3-1.

Michael Ciminiello dives into third base safely. Photo by Bill Landon

The Bulls gave up four more runs before head coach Ken Klee summoned Nicholas Harvey to take over on the mound with one out. He walked his first batter, working with his twin brother Justin his battery mate, but the pair was just warming up. Nicholas Harvey struck out the next batter for the second out, and Justin Harvey fired the ball to second base in time for the Walt Whitman runner to be tagged out to end the inning down 5-3.

Walt Whitman gave the Bulls a gift in the top of the sixth when a passed ball at the plate helped sophomore Michael Ciminiello score from third to make it a one-run game, 5-4.

“[Whatever the record is you] go in and play hard — you can’t take any team lightly,” Ciminiello said. “You go out there, do [your] best and keep playing the game.”

Matthew Weirtheim takes a cut. Photo by Bill Landon

With the 7-5 win Smithtown East improves to 14-1, but Klee said the goal is much bigger than that.

“We need to get better — that sounds like it’s nitpicking, but we want to be the best team,” the coach said. “But obviously the last couple of innings we showed grit to come back again for the second day in a row. It’s certainly a credit to the kids.”

Especially Barbiglia, who hit big for the second day in a row. He went 2-for-3 and scored the game-tying run in the sixth inning in a 3-2 win over Bay Shore April 30.

“Mark got that big hit that’s two days in a row — he’s the guy we know is going to come through in a situation like that,” Klee said.

The senior’s bat just keeps on cracking, and the crowd continues to supply some 
additional noise.

The Eagles' 5-2 victory helps them remain atop the League VI leaderboard

Rocky Point's Trey Miller attempts to steal third on Kings Park's Joe Tardino. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Eagles know that if Joe Grillo has the ball, they’re in good hands.

The starting pitcher tossed seven strikeouts over six innings, not allowing a run on five hits, and walked three in the Rocky Point baseball team’s 5-2 win over visiting Kings Park April 23.

Rocky Point’s Joe Grillo hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

The senior put in work on both sides of the ball. He also went 1-for-2 with an RBI and two walks to help the Eagles remain atop the League VI leaderboard. Rocky Point sits at 8-2, while Kings Park drops to 8-5 after the first of a three-game series.

“Joe just had good stuff — he was pitching [for] contact, his pitch count was down,” Rocky Point head coach Andrew Aschettino said. “We certainly didn’t play our best baseball game today, which makes the win that much more satisfying. We’re capable of playing a more complete game. We struggled to get the blow to put the game out of reach.”

Rocky Point peppered the scoreboard across the first four innings to take a 4-0 lead into the top of the fifth, with almost everyone in the lineup contributing to the score. Grillo got on base with a walk to start things off in the first, and was brought home on a single by senior third baseman Mike Gunning. Grillo hit an RBI-single before stealing second with two outs in the bottom of the second, with sophomore short stop Dillon Cassidy on third, and after senior center fielder Ryan Callahan drew a walk to load the bases, Gunning was also walked to bring home Cassidy for a 3-0 lead. The final out was made to strand the rest of Rocky Point’s runners. After a scoreless third, junior catcher Alexander Bonacci knocked a double that drove in Callahan after he stole second for a 4-0 cushion.

Though Kings Park junior starting pitcher John Dougherty struggled early, Grillo got into some trouble of his own after allowing a single and a walk. Kings Park senior Rich Kim, who hit the single, stole third after classmate Brett Harmon’s walk to put runners at the corners, and junior Andrew Bianco brought them home with a shot deep to right field to cut the lead in half, 4-2.

Kings Park’s Garrett Bower rips the cover off the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

In the top of the sixth, the Kingsmen once again had runners on the corners with one out, but Grillo was able to force a pair of routine infield grounders to end the inning.

Junior left fielder Trey Miller hit an RBI-single that brought home Gunning after he gunned his way to third following his double to give the game its final score. the Eagles ended the game on a double play in the top of the seventh.

“Trey [Miller] coming in and getting some ground balls helped shut the door,” Aschettino said. “And we were able to close it out on our second chance at a double play, so to end it the way we did was huge.”

Grillo said even when Kings Park made it a two-run game, and despite having to pitch his way out of trouble twice, he never thought his game was in jeopardy.

“I had faith in my fielders at all times, and my arm felt good today — I felt confident the whole time,” he said. “[But we have to work on] our situational at-bats, we have to do a lot more to make better contact and if we continue to have sound pitching we’ll be there.”

Rocky Point travels to Kings Park April 25 for game two, which has a 4 p.m. start. The final game of the series is slated for 4 p.m. back on the Eales’ turf April 26.

Annual game against Mount Sinai memorializes the late alumna for her kindness, giving nature

By Desirée Keegan

Hundreds came out to show support for a local girl who gave to others.

In 2011, Rocky Point High School graduate Susie Facini died of a sudden heart attack. She was 19 years old. Since then, the Eagles and Mount Sinai’s baseball team have faced off each year to raise money for a scholarship in the name of a girl who was known for her immediate impact on everyone she met.

“All of them universally buy into what we’re trying to get across, and that is kindness,” said Facini’s father Peter, who tossed a ceremonial first pitch. “It takes courage to be kind sometimes — to step out of your comfort zone and reach out to somebody. And conversely, if you’re in trouble and you need help, you need to be able to ask somebody for help. It’s a difficult world and these kids give us great [hope].”

Without warning, Facini had felt her heart race, and passed out just seconds later. Despite efforts by her mother, Bernadette, a registered nurse, Facini was unable to be revived. The mother said she’s moved each and every year by how the community and the teams react to the game, especially now that most of the current student-athletes had never met her daughter.

“It comes down through the teachers, the parents; ‘Who is this girl, what does she mean to people and why?’ and they all do it proudly,” she said. “We are humbled by it every year and we’re shocked that it gets bigger and bigger. These are absolutely remarkable, nice boys. This event is really wonderful, and we’re lucky.”

Rocky Point senior pitcher and outfielder Ryan Callahan dedicated his time and efforts, taking part in the fundraiser that gathered $500 for the scholarship through food sales and raffles.

“I didn’t know her, but anyone you talk to says she was such a great person,” Callahan said. “I heard from everyone who’d known her that she was such an amazing human being, always so kind to everyone and left such a big and lasting impact on people. This is just our way to memorialize that.”

Jessica LaCascia, Facini’s longtime friend and classmate, said it’s the type of event her friend would’ve been first in line for.

“She would be dancing in the dugout like they are,” she said, pointing to the teammates that shook their hips to the music that played between each inning. “Susie was friends with everybody — there was not a stranger in her life. She was just such a bright light. Anytime she entered a room you couldn’t help but laugh; she commanded all of the attention. [I look around] and I don’t know anyone here, so I’m so thankful for all the people here coming out to celebrate what her life meant.”

Donations to the Live Like Susie Memorial Scholarship can be made in person or by mail to the high school at 90 Rocky Point-Yaphank Road, Rocky Point, NY, 11778.

Bill Landon contributed reporting

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Starting pitcher slams a double, scores game-winning run to go with 11 Ks during his complete game

Starting southpaw Max Nielsen hurls a pitch. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Nothing is stopping Ward Melville’s starting pitcher Max Nielsen from winning a game.

Trading a ball for a bat, the lefty led off the bottom of the fourth with a double, knocking the ball into the outfield on a bad bounce, and two more hits eventually scored what would be the game-winning run in a 2-1 Patriots victory over Patchogue-Medford April 17.

Brady Doran gets under an infield popup. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Nielsen, who added 11 strikeouts from the mound during a complete game while allowing just three hits and one walk, said he knew he’d won the game once he crossed home plate.

“I knew that was going to be the run that’d win it for us,” the southpaw said. “Because I knew I wasn’t going to give up another run.”

The junior allowed hits in the first and second and hit a batter in the second before a Patchogue-Medford bunt loaded the bases. He struck out the following hitter but allowed the only run later in the same inning. He surrendered his only walk in the top of the fourth, but also struck out two to get back on track.

“I always try to give my team the best opportunity to win,” Nielsen said. “I wanted to get ahead with the fastball, because once I get ahead I can start going through my other pitches and making it harder on the hitters. I had a rough second inning, but my defense got me out of it.”

Logan Doran and Kyle Rafferty each went 2-for-3 with a stolen base. Doran scored the Patriots’ only other run, and his brother Brady Doran also went 2-for-3. While the brothers said Ward Melville was slow to start, the Patriots are now firing on all cylinders, feeling in their element.

Brady Doran, Kyle Rafferty and Alex Russo leap up in celebration after the win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I wanted to attack the fastball, and he had a pretty good curveball,” junior second baseman Brady Doran said of Patchogue-Medford’s pitcher. “I’m comfortable, stay confident and try to attack the fastball and hit it hard. We gel; we’re a close team that really plays well together.”

Nielsen shared a similar sentiment, but said the funny feelings from the team’s uneven start are gone now.

“I can’t think of a weakness,” he said. “Our defense is great, I know all of the pitchers on staff are going to give us a great game and we hit.”

Head coach Lou Petrucci said he thought his southpaw controlled the game, and said he liked that he stayed under 100 pitches. Petrucci said the Raiders’ record didn’t fool him (2-7), because he knew he’d be facing a challenging opponent.

“Randall [Alejo] pitched a great game and we got away with a win today,” he said. “It’s a big rivalry game. We tried to have good at -bats, put good swings on the ball, we didn’t strike out much and the kids are showing great improvement. Our pitching staff is keeping the scores down, and now we’re working on getting the clutch hits, but we’re playing hard.”

The Patriots have now won five straight and are tied with Sachem East (7-2) at the No. 2 spot in League I behind Longwood (8-1). Ward Melville travels to Patchogue-Medford for Game 2 of the series. The first pitch is scheduled for 4:15 p.m.

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Wolverines win crosstown rival battle in close finish

Newfield's Joe Rubenstrunk tags a Centereach runner out at second. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Back-to-back one-run innings put Newfield ahead to earn a 2-1 win over crosstown rival Centereach April 17.

Newfield pitcher Bobby Vath hurls a pitch. Photo by Bill Landon

Chandler Giovinco and Dylan Johnson both hit doubles to put Newfield on the board and tie the score in the bottom of the fourth, and Joey Rubenstrunk scored from second base off the bat of Michael Prisco on a fielder’s choice to put Newfield (8-1) ahead and earn the win in the bottom of the fifth.

“We did a good job at staying poised and focused and making the plays — whenever Newfield plays Centereach things get ratcheted up a little bit,” Newfield head coach Eric Joyner said. “That’s a good team. They came in hot, they put the ball in play and that put pressure on our defense, but [fortunately] they were able to step up and make the plays.”

Before the game even started things got off to a rocky start for Centereach, with the starting pitcher being scratched half an hour before the game as a result of an injury sustained during warmups. The ball was put in the hands of Mark Schnitzer, who went the distance. 

“I told him to focus. Stay composed and be confident — he’s a real pitcher and his mindset is, ‘I don’t care where I’m pitching, what time I’m pitching, I just want the ball,’” Centereach head coach Pete Cammarata said. “He was the best kid to go with after what happened today.”

Centereach’s Liam Webber slides into Newfield shortstop Kyle Johnson while he makes a play. Photo by Bill Landon

Centereach right fielder Devin Demetres started the first inning with a single to right field, then stole second before third baseman Ryan Mahnke smacked the ball through the gap on a full count to send him home.

Liam Webber drew a walk for the Cougars in the top of the third, moving Demetres over to second, and shortstop Ryan DeCoursey hit a sacrifice fly to put both runners in scoring position. With two outs, Newfield’s Giovinco tracked down a deep shot to right field, diving for the ball to come up with a catch that stranded both runners.

“The wind caught that ball, but I knew I had to make that play to help my team out,” Giovinco said.

The junior right fielder’s bat spoke next when he drilled the ball deep to left for a stand-up double in the bottom of the fourth. Johnson, a freshman, protected the plate before he jumped on a pitch he blasted to right field, plating Giovinco to make it a new game, 1-all. Centereach’s Demetres continued to keep himself busy, reeling in another hit to end the inning.

Newfield shortstop Kyle Johnson, Dylan’s brother, was hit by a pitch and took first to load the bases in the bottom of the fifth. Prisco hit an infield ground ball for what was a double-play situation, but the throw to second base was bobbled, getting the ball to first just seconds after the runner as Rubenstrunk dashed for home plate.

Centereach pitcher Mark Schnitzer goes the distance despite being called on to start 20 minutes before the game. Photo by Bill Landon

“Yesterday in practice we were working on getting good leads off the bag and [then sprinting],” Rubenstrunk said. “I saw the ball in play at second, so I took off for home.”

The Cougars bats went back to work in the top of the seventh, but Newfield’s starting pitcher Bobby Vath still had some spark left in him, and the senior retired the side in order by working the corners.

Cammarata said he now knows his team can compete with anyone, saying if one or two plays went the other way, Centereach would’ve come out on top.

“You’ve got to take your hats off to the other team,” he said. “[You put it in the past] and you move on to the next day.”

Centereach hosted Newfield in the second game of the series April 18, but results were not available by press time. Newfield returns to Cougars country April 19 for the final game of the series. The first pitch is scheduled to be tossed at 4 p.m.

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